Hot off the presses, this is the cover of the first of a new chapter book series from Random House. Sensitively written by Steve Cotler, it's a "book within a book", wherein the main character, a young boy who lives in Gloucester Massachusetts, tells tales of his daily life interspersed with his own imaginative digressions in his own "book".
As the story focuses on Ronald "Cheesie" Mack's fifth grade graduation, from the start I imagined the cover to riff off of those horribly awkward class photos we've all lived through. It seemed the perfect way to introduce the various characters, real and imagined, while setting up the narrative in a specific environment. Luckily, the awesome art director Ellice Lee battled out the forces and got my idea through.
This is Cheesie's sister. Here, she is imagined by Cheesie as a hideous mongoloid zombie.
In this chapter, Cheesie and his buddy Georgie have become enslaved by a hideous beast. Actually, Cheesie is simply writing the scenario on his computer in his room.
This house, which Cheesie calls the Haunted Toad, is a central part of the story. It was a fun bit of a challenge to make a New England "gingerbread" house look like a creepy toad.
Frog vs. Toad.
These bw images are a few of the many interiors to the book.
When it was all finished, Ellice asked me if I could draw myself and the author from fifth grade to match the theme from the cover for the flap. My father emailed me this photo, which I sent to Ellice along with the illustration of myself from that time. They ended up deciding to run the photos instead of the illustrations!
I would've never have thought this embarrassing photo would be reproduced in a book. Wearing my sister's shirt, no less, circa 1975.
Anyway, I recently learned the cover of Cheesie Mac will be included in the Society of Illustrator's 53rd Book & Editorial show. I look forward to seeing many of you at the opening on Friday! With a storm pending Wednesday, looks like it's going to be a long travel day getting to NY. Maybe we'll get lucky and our luggage wheel will have one of theose Brodner advertisements on it....
Piggybacking on Edel's sketchbook post, this is some stuff from the book I kept on a trip there in 1997, a year prior to his trip. At the time I had been doing a lot of work for Salon.com, especially their travel section. So I proposed doing a sketchbook while there for them to publish as a different sort of web travel story.
My wife (then girlfriend) Cynthia and I joined her family for the first part of the trip. Cynthia's father Bill had long studied the Hittites, so his historical knowledge brought a lot to the trip for all of us. I had been there once before, when I was 4 years old, during the Yom Kippur war, but hardly remembered anything. In boning up for the trip, we took a crash course in Arabic, which ended up helping a bit. Arabic writing is so very beautiful, but the language was tough to learn. Three letters for "h" that each have different subtle gutteral "g" and "r" shifts, for example.
The first part of the trip was very similar to Edel's, in terms of it's itinerary. It began in Cairo, which is an absolutely amazing, crazy, chaotic, seemingly endless expansive Megalopolis. I can't imagine being there right now for the rioting. The economic chasm is brutal and deep there - intense poverty as well as walled-off wealth, although there is a substantial middle class in Cairo.
We quickly discovered the satisfying street food called Koshary, a delicious mix of oniony, peppery carbohydrates; dirt cheap and the people's food. I'm surprised to this day why it hasn't become a fast food phenomenon outside of the middle east.
Cairo has a surreal mix of the ancient bustling with the modern, all dust and hooves and oil and and honks. You take your life into your hands driving there - the roads are insane. In Egypt, they call their country Misr.
Looking at the art and architecture there made me wonder why their modern artwork is so deeply weak compared to their ancient artwork. Shucksters would try and lure us into their "papyrus art" galleries and chintzy jewelry stores. "Illustrators" there seem to mainly be sign painters. Billboards were hand painted and often amazing. Graphics in "magazines" had an odd tendency towards diagramatical images; strange cross sections of septic systems, body functions, fruit.
We had the luck while in Cairo to see a whirling dervish performance one night, in some amazing old building down some dark alley in the heart of the city. I couldn't get enough of the ephemera of the printed matter there.
The endless megalopolis known as Cairo.
We traveled up the Nile on a boat packed with Dutch tourists, who were a lot of fun. The boat docked at Luxor to see the great Karnak. The ancient temple, not the Johnny Carson skit. It was one of the most mind numbingly awesome works of art I have to this day ever seen.
Unfortunately, later that evening we got robbed by a couple of temple guards that tried to corner us in a temple out on the side. With M-16s and gold teeth, under the eye of the watchful Sekhmet no less. It shook us up and things began to start feeling a bit more like a Paul Bowles book.
When we got back to the boat we learned that a busload of German tourists had been shot down by terrorists in front of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, at the very place we had just been 24 hours prior.
I started drawing a comic thing of our getting cornered in the temple because it freaked me out. We lucked out and got out of it without being hurt, just payed some money. Egyptian money is so desperately worthless, it is amazing. I noticed that Edel also was collaging in the paper money into his book. One could hardly resist - the paper money there is so worn-out looking, it almost looks like trash - yet it is oddly, hauntingly beautiful.
This is Deir el-Bahri, the temple of Hatshepsut in the desert west of the Nile from Luxor.
Three weeks after I drew this, it was the scene of a big terrorist attack wherein a bunch of the temple's guards all of the sudden turned their guns on fresh busloads of tourists that had just arrived.
The river trip ended at Aswan, a gorgeous city on the river smack in the center of Egypt, reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel. Aswan is know for it's dam, which provides water for much of Egypt even as it flooded out forever the ancient land of Nubia, who's music lives on through the work of the great Hamza El Din.
Coming into beautiful Aswan on the Nile.
At this point, they fly tourists on a one hour flight to Abu Simbel, which is a parched plot of land sporting an amazing ancient scene of four pharoahs carved into a cliff. This was probably the hottest and driest place I've ever been, something close to 120 degrees. The on-flight magazine provided the disturbing cross-sectional images of reproductive organs. On signage, everything is mis-spelled and badly translated.
Back to Cairo, where we said good-bye to Cynthia's family and stayed on to continue on to Alexandria. The groovy orange logo in the upper right of this spread is from a fabulous restaurant in Cairo. The best falafel and foul I may have ever had. As a matter of fact, the food in Egypt is incredible, perfect for a vegetarian as we were then.
It being pre 9/11, we were learning a lot there about the Muslim world, the issues with Israel, the daily prayers. The football.
Some beautiful wall art, I believe this is near Memphis. Memphis Egypt, not Memphis Tennessee.
It being a muslim country, alcohol was carefully restricted and general available only in more touristy areas. Stella beer was our saviour. Believe it or not, Egypt makes wine, which is really hard to imagine given the expansive Saharan landscape - and it's even harder to drink. One must remember wine originated in these parts of the world. Stella beer, however, is the ticket.
Anyway, we finally made it by bus to Alexandria, which is a magnificent place, provided a deep sahara dust storm isn't blowing through..
...A deep Sahara dust storm was blowing through Alexandria. Nonetheless, it was amazing to be there.
We pressed further up the Mediterranean coast to an Egyptian resort town called Aida. It was so very bizarre, because it consisted of endless rows of 20 story condo skyscrapers, built like concrete bunkers, lining the gorgeous white sand coast for miles on end. And they were all deserted, like a post-apocolyptic scene.
The cabbie dropped us off and we discovered we were one of maybe twenty people at the place we'd reserved. The other people seemed to all be Russian tourists. Ecstatic to finally be away from the opressive huge crowded cities, I flung my shirt off and leapt into the stunning blue-green Meditteranean water.
I was charmed by the seaweed that wrapped around my body as I swam out. That is, until I realized it wasn't seaweed but in fact shredded garbage, dumped far off-shore by a conga line of ships departing the Alexandria port.
In the end, the trip to Aida was well worth it. It was an interesting insight into the vacation world of Egypt. Apparently it was all empty because people mostly go there during the muslim holidays and at no other time, that is besides random American and Russian tourists.
Anyway, now it was time to go back to Cairo and do a few last minute touristy things. We visited the pyramids again (where the camels have names like "Michael Jackson"), had some more Koshary.
This was one of the last drawings I did, out the window of the hotel room four floors up, overlooking a typical night scene in Cairo. Men, playing backgammon, smoking their sheesha. No women to be seen. In the end, upon our return, due to the crazy terrorist stuff that happened there during our trip, Salon decided against doing the piece.
Mubarek was their President back when I did these drawings - he's still their President today. It's been amazing to see what's been going on there these last few days. I wish the best for the great people of Egypt.
Here is this month's cover for the excellent Alex Knowlton at Poetry Magazine. I know some other drawgers have done covers for Poetry; Alex asks artists to give him personal work and the magazine then chooses a piece that they like. This image is called "Lupo Nero".
This is the cover I did last year for them, "Tip-Jar Angel". It was originally inspired by a song by our friend's band Yard Sale, who are three lovely and incredibly talented ladies. This cover image has been selected to appear in the upcoming SI book/editorial exhibit.
These were done for Manuel Velez at the Wall St Journal last year, accompanying an article about the collapse of the Greek economy. I believe he ran them as a sort of banner thing on the cover, but I never saw it in print.
Anyway, they'll be included in the upcoming Sequential & Uncommissioned Show at SI, opening this Friday, January 7. Wish I could be there, I'm sure it'll be fun.
It's a real shame all of the difficulties Greece is having. We had the good fortune to enjoy our honeymoon there, in a time when it was more peaceful and stable. These are a few images from the sketchbook I kept on that trip in 2006.